There are a lot of opinions out there regarding the flu shot, and each person has to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family when it comes to being vaccinated. Tessa and I are trying a joint endeavor on this blog post to bring a 360˚ view to the flu shot and all that goes along with that tiny syringe poke (as the mist is no longer an option). Multiple health care professionals were interviewed for this post, in addition to online research.
WHAT IS “The Flu” when referring to getting a flu shot? By Kelly
This seems like an easy question with a simple answer, so simple in fact that it feels a bit silly to waste a health professional’s time in asking it. However, every health care worker interviewed had a long, detailed explanation to this question, because the term “the flu” can be confusing.
To some people, the flu means a viral infection, to others, it means a stomach ache and puking, and for some it means both.
A nurse practitioner, named Sarah, explained, “The flu can be used as an all-inclusive term, however the stomach flu (or gastroenteritis) and the seasonal flu (influenza) are not the same. The stomach flu can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Symptoms can range from nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach ache, and diarrhea. The seasonal flu is caused by a virus. The most common symptoms are fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and cough.”
The annual flu shot vaccination is combating the seasonal flu, or more correctly an influenza virus, that does not have anything to do with vomiting or diarrhea. This goes against what many people typically assume about the flu shot, because for decades, the term “flu” was synonymous with throwing up for a grueling number of hours or days.
According to a public health nurse, named Emily, “When I was growing up “flu” meant vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Unfortunately many people still use the term “flu” incorrectly. The influenza virus is a respiratory illness that is very contagious and is spread mainly through coughing/sneezing or close contact with a person with the virus. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, fatigue, headache, nasal drainage, or congestion. Severe symptoms include pneumonia, blood infections, and seizures.”
Who Should Get Vaccinated for the Flu? By Tessa
The flu vaccination is available for almost everyone. There are certain groups that the CDC recommends should definitely receive the vaccine in October or November. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.” Women who are pregnant, those who are elder, and people that have compromised immune systems should definitely seek out the vaccine. The CDC and many health care professionals view the vaccine this way: If more people get protected by the flu shot, less people should get the flu during the winter months.
There are a group of people who should contact their doctor before they get the vaccine. People that have allergies to eggs or any other ingredients in the vaccine should contact their primary physicians before getting vaccinated. In addition, the CDC also recommends, “If you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS), talk to your doctor about your GBS history.” In addition, those that aren’t feeling well at the time of their scheduled vaccination should wait until the illness passes.
There are people who should absolutely not get the vaccine. Children six months and younger should not be vaccinated, or anyone who has life-threatening reactions to the flu or any ingredient in the vaccine. Finally, those that have severe egg allergies should avoid the flu vaccine each season. No matter what, the CDC recommends that everyone talk to their physician before getting the flu shot.
Why is no FluMist available? NBC News reports that the reason is still in question. “Vaccine experts say they are not sure. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cites one study that found FluMist only reduced the risk of serious influenza by 3 percent last year.” Those that produce the FluMist disagree; however, the break from the mist clears up confusion about whether or not the mist or shot is better. No matter your preference, the shot is the only option in 2016. Some parents are disheartened to hear that the mist is not available this year. They liked that it was less threatening to their children than the shot. Personally, my family has never gotten the mist. We, like many families to whom I’ve spoken, were more uncomfortable with the process of the mist than the shot.
What is in the shot? By Kelly
The annual flu shot contains strains of the flu virus that health care professionals believe will hit hardest during that season of the flu. According to a physician assistant, named Elizabeth, “The flu shot consists of the body parts of 3-4 different strains of the flu virus that the manufacturers think might be prevalent during the upcoming season.”
Do experts always get the strains 100% correct? Unfortunately no. Does everyone remember the Winter of 2014/2015? It was when the flu hit very hard because the strains for the then available flu shot did not exactly match a spreading strain that had mutated. I remember that time well, because my family had our first ever trip to Disney World planned, and I was a germ-censoring freak for the entire two weeks leading up to the trip because it seemed like everyone we knew had the flu. (We luckily stayed healthy and had a great vacation!)
This year’s flu shot has two different types of seasonal flu vaccines. My nurse practitioner friend, Sarah, said they are known as “the trivalent and the quadravalent which protects against three or four influenza viruses respectively.”
According to Emily, the highly trained nurse and an expert on maternal health, “There are hundreds of strains of influenza including strains of A, B, C and D. Influenza C is generally not severe and Influenza D primarily affects cattle and is not known to cause illness in humans. Each year the vaccination is reviewed and updated to include the most common circulating strains. For the 2016-2017 season there is a trivalent which include 2 strains of A and 1 strain of B, and a quadravalent which includes 2 strains of A and 2 strains of B.”
That is a lot of information on a tiny little syringe, so we will stop here for part one on Family Footnote’s look at the flu shot. Stay tuned later in the week when we tackle the topic of getting (or not getting) the flu shot.
Did we get our facts correct? Or did we miss something? Please let us know by leaving a comment or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.